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Badlands...???


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#1 Michael B McGee

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Posted 04 February 2009 - 01:49 AM

does anyone know the story behind Terrence Malick's "Badlands"? imdb lists 3 DPs. just curious.

thanks,
Mike
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#2 Thom Stitt

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 06:16 PM

What a great question. I never knew this either. A minute on google revealed this article:

http://www.guardian....08/aug/22/drama

Excerpt from article: (note that Jack Fisk was the production designer)
But that impulsiveness came close to wrecking the film. "The shoot went on for ever because the crew kept quitting," Spacek told me in 1999. "They were completely brutalised. They'd be setting up one shot over here, then Terry would look over in the other direction where the moon was rising up and he'd go, 'Let's shoot over there!' I have these memories of everyone tearing off across the desert in pursuit of one sunset or another." Fisk was one of the few who didn't quit. "I had a vested interest. I'd fallen in love with Sissy, so that also kept me going." The couple married two years later.

British cinematographer Brian Probyn established the dreamy texture of the picture before being taken ill, exhausted by the heat, the long hours and Malick's idiosyncrasies. "On several occasions," says Pressman, "I can recall Brian shooting with the slate upside down as a form of protest in a disagreement with Terry about methods of orthodox coverage and matching shots." Tak Fujimoto - who later became Jonathan Demme's regular cinematographer - took over after Probyn's depature, until a new director of photography, Steven Larner, was found. "Amazingly, despite the input of these different hands, the film looks remarkably seamless," says Pressman. "There were three cinematographers, lots of editors, sound men," said Fisk. "Except for the actors, the art department was the only one that completed the film. If the picture survived all those problems, it's because one thing was consistent: Terry Malick's vision."

Edited by Thom Stitt, 05 February 2009 - 06:17 PM.

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#3 Tom Lowe

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Posted 05 February 2009 - 08:12 PM

Sounds like a bunch of wussies on that crew! :lol:

"oh, it's too hot... the hours are too long... the director is trying to get great images... i can't take it anymore!!"
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 04:31 AM

Sounds like a bunch of wussies on that crew! :lol:

"oh, it's too hot... the hours are too long... the director is trying to get great images... i can't take it anymore!!"


Just because a director creates great films doesn't mean they're easy to work with. Some of them are total pains to deal with (and perhaps aren't great directors either) and there's a point where people just feel they're not being inspired enough at the time to hang in with that particular director.

A first time director who appears to be all over the place stands a very good chance of having walk offs... hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most films that have a director like that don't turn out to be "Badlands".

I heard a story of an AD (don't know which grade) on a Kubrick film muttering to himself behind a set: "Remember the mortgage, remember the mortgage!"
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 11:50 AM

As cinematographers, we have been hard-wired to try to be efficient and to stay on schedule... and slip whatever art we can within those limits. 99% of all jobs we go out for are like that (I'm talking about features, not commercials or music videos.)

So it can be hard to deal with a director who ultimately does not care about efficiency or staying on schedule because then we're a bit lost -- do we work to make-up for the director by trying to push him to manage time better, to work harder behind his back to stay on schedule, or do we give up that obligation and just follow his lead?

Because this movie may be the director's last movie, but we have more to go to shoot, and if we get a reputation of being inefficient, slow, or that we ignore the schedule, it may come to haunt us on the next job interview.

This leads to some emotional turmoil on the part of the cinematographer, who wants to be as artistic as the director wants him to be, who doesn't?... but isn't sure if he should be trying to help the director become more efficient lest the director get fired, or just jump off the cliff with the director and hope there are no consequences later.

The problem is that we are hired by the producer and the studio, but we work for the director and collaborate with him -- it's his vision we were hired to get onto film. But when the studio and producer start pressuring you to push the director a way he doesn't seem inclined to move, there is conflict. It's not really fair for the DP because the producer really should be putting that pressure on the director directly, not trying to work around him by pressuring the DP.

I've worked for some producer-directors who had total freedom to follow whatever artistic impulse they had... but that doesn't always work either because usually they aren't the ones financing the movie. On one movie, no one could say "no" to the producer-director since there was no one higher up than him other than the investor... and three days before we started shooting, production was shut down for three weeks because the director had already driven the budget by three million dollars beyond what money was available. So within three days, the director had to cut three million dollars worth of stuff out of the budget, stuff he added because he wouldn't listen to anyone.

Most movies are budgeted pretty tightly and it isn't open-ended in terms of how much you can spend. So sometimes if you go only one day over schedule, you quickly find that you are over-budget as well -- there is a limited contingency for overages. And if you go over by one day in the first week of production, everyone is going to figure that they will be a week or two over schedule by the end... and there may simply be no money available to cover that.

People like Kubrick and probably Malick tend to cover some of that by keeping production costs as low as possible -- lower salaries, smaller crews, etc. -- but you have to design a production around that approach, you can't expect thirty people to do the same work as 100. And most of their movies ultimately were not that cheap to make.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 01:43 PM

People like Kubrick and probably Malick tend to cover some of that by keeping production costs as low as possible -- lower salaries, smaller crews, etc. -- but you have to design a production around that approach, you can't expect thirty people to do the same work as 100. And most of their movies ultimately were not that cheap to make.


I've heard that a Kubrick crew was surprisingly small compared to most other feature films

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 06 February 2009 - 01:44 PM.

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#7 Tim Partridge

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 04:56 PM

I think it's hilarious that Probyn left BADLANDS and went back to England to shoot two cheapo Hammer films (one of them being a big screen adaptation of the ON THE BUSES TV show)! The juxtaposition against this beautifully precise, classic American art film is too too funny.

I do remember reading that Fujimoto and Larner were ACs on the shoot who got promoted after Probyn left.

I wonder if Malick was a Ken Loach fan (Probyn shot Poor Cow)?
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